The rise of a giant, fall of a titan



Jake Schoneker

Spotlights shone down onto the field of battle. Camera bulbs flashed and flickered. The eyes of the nation focused on two titans, squaring off in a fight for glory. One was a proven winner, a bona fide dynasty, riding a well-oiled offensive machine that seemed pre-destined to win. The other was a double-digit underdog with a dream – a contender who through pure passion and determination had risen from general obscurity into the national limelight. I’m talking, of course, about Super Tuesday and the Democratic presidential primaries.

To be fair, in terms of TV ratings, the eyes of the nation may have been focused on Super Bowl Sunday rather than Tuesday’s primaries, which comes as no surprise. In football, you get vicious hits, touchdown passes and Ryan Seacrest. On Super Tuesday, you’ll probably be watching elderly folks chatter at the polls or trying to spot the bird living in Wolf Blitzer’s beard. Besides, the Super Bowl has great commercials and a halftime show to keep you hooked. The biggest eye candy CNN can offer are some handy interactive pie charts.

Still, the 2008 presidential race is the most hyped-up, politically charged media spectacle in recent memory. To see why, one only has to look to the Super Bowl. Both contests feature a young, determined David and a cold, calculating Goliath – a recipe for ratings. In the sporting arena, there were the fearless and flawless New England Patriots chasing a perfect season and their fourth Super Bowl in seven years; in the political arena, the Clintons are poised to take the White House back to continue their own democratic dynasty.

In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, everyone counted New York out. Their young quarterback was inconsistent and had never played at such a high level. Rather than dominating their competition all season and cruising into the Super Bowl, the Giants struggled through an up-and-down season and overcame tremendous adversity. They were not bred for success, but they worked hard and found the will to win. As an Eagles fan, I can’t believe I’m saying all these nice things about the Giants.

Nevertheless, the point is that the smell of upset is still in the air. Just over a month ago, national polls had Clinton leading Obama by as much as 20 percent of the vote. But a strong showing in the past few weeks has turned the tide for the young senator, culminating with a blowout win in South Carolina. Obama is now in a virtual dead heat with Clinton across the country. The man who used to be thought of as unelectable is now poised to take down one of the most deeply entrenched political figures of our time in Clinton. How did he do it?

One reason is that Obama is quite simply a tremendously gifted and likable politician. When you look at polls from across the country, a clear trend emerges. Clinton enjoys a healthy lead from the start due to greater name recognition and the popularity of her husband. But as elections draw closer in each state (and voters begin paying more attention), Obama’s stock goes through the roof. The more voters get to know him, the more they like what they see.

Another reason for Obama’s meteoric rise is his ability to attract new voters (read: the youth). For the first time in many young peoples’ lives, there is a viable candidate who is not just “better than the alternative,” but who truly inspires them to get involved. The primaries this year have seen record turnout numbers, and Obama has been the main benefactor.

But the biggest reason why Obama’s campaign has succeeded is not because it is effective, not because it is youthful, but because it is different. Clinton (one of the most reviled figures in politics for many conservatives) hopes to win the presidency through the same kind of traditional, polarizing politics that failed for Gore and Kerry before her. Obama, on the other hand, has the potential and the promise to transcend partisanship and achieve something greater.

Of course, there will be roadblocks and adversity – there always are, no matter what game you play. But it is Obama’s great hope in America that has allowed his campaign to rise, and it is his faith in a united, progressive agenda that will allow him to lead this country effectively forward toward prosperity and peace.


Jake Schoneker is a senior humanities and political science major from Landsdale, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].